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Homosexuality in women, which is certainly not less common than in men, although much less glaring, has 
not only been ignored by the law, but has also been neglected by psycho-analytic research. The narration 
of a single case, not too pronounced in type, in which it was possible to trace its origin and development in 
the mind with complete certainty and almost without a gap may, therefore, have a certain claim to attention. 
If this presentation of it furnishes only the most general outlines of the various events concerned and of the 
conclusions reached from a study of the case, while suppressing all the characteristic details on which the 
interpretation is founded, this limitation is easily to be explained by the medical discretion necessary in 
discussing a recent case. 

A beautiful and clever girl of eighteen, belonging to a family of good standing, had aroused displeasure 
and concern in her parents by the devoted adoration with which she pursued a certain ‘society lady' who 
was about ten years older than herself. The parents asserted that, in spite of her distinguished name, this 
lady was nothing but a cocotte. It was well known, they said, that she lived with a friend, a married woman, 
and had intimate relations with her, while at the same time she carried on promiscuous affairs with a 
number of men. The girl did not contradict these evil reports, but neither did she allow them to interfere with 
her worship of the lady, although she herself was by no means lacking in a sense of decency and propriety. 
No prohibitions and no supervision hindered the girl from seizing every one of her rare opportunities of 
being together with her beloved, of ascertaining all her habits, of waiting for her for hours outside her door 
or at a tram-halt, of sending her gifts of flowers, and so on. It was evident that this one interest had 
swallowed up all others in the girl’s mind. She did not trouble herself any further with educational studies, 
thought nothing of social functions or girlish pleasures, and kept up relations only with a few girl friends who 
could help her in the matter or serve as confidantes. The parents could not say to what lengths their 
daughter had gone in her relations with the questionable lady, whether the limits of devoted admiration had 
already been exceeded or not. They had never remarked in their daughter any interest in young men, nor 
pleasure in their attentions, while, on the other hand, they were sure that her present attachment to a 
woman was only a continuation, in a more marked degree, of a feeling she had displayed of recent years 
for other members of her own sex which had already aroused her father’s suspicion and anger. 

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There were two details of her behaviour, in apparent contrast with each other, that most especially vexed 
her parents. On the one hand, she did not scruple to appear in the most frequented streets in the company 
of her undesirable friend, being thus quite neglectful of her own reputation; while, on the other hand, she 
disdained no means of deception, no excuses and no lies that would make meetings with her possible and 
cover them. She thus showed herself too open in one respect and full of deceitfulness in the other. One day 
it happened, indeed, as was sooner or later inevitable in the circumstances, that the father met his daughter 
in the company of the lady, about whom he had come to know. He passed them by with an angry glance 
which boded no good. Immediately afterwards the girl rushed off and flung herself over a wall down the side 
of a cutting on to the suburban railway line which ran close by. She paid for this undoubtedly serious 
attempt at suicide with a considerable time on her back in bed, though fortunately little permanent damage 
was done. After her recovery she found it easier to get her own way than before. The parents did not dare 
to oppose her with so much determination, and the lady, who up till then had received her advances coldly, 
was moved by such an unmistakable proof of serious passion and began to treat her in a more friendly 

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About six months after this episode the parents sought medical advice and entrusted the physician with 
the task of bringing their daughter back to a normal state of mind. The girl’s attempted suicide had evidently 
shown them that strong disciplinary measures at home were powerless to overcome her disorder. Before 
going further, however, it will be desirable to deal separately with the attitudes of her father and of her 
mother to the matter. The father was an earnest, worthy man, at bottom very tender-hearted, but he had to 
some extent estranged his children by the sternness he had adopted towards them. His treatment of his 
only daughter was too much influenced by consideration for his wife. When he first came to know of his 
daughter’s homosexual tendencies he flew into a rage and tried to suppress them by threats. At that time 
perhaps he hesitated between different, though equally distressing, views - regarding her either as vicious, 
as degenerate, or as mentally afflicted. Even after the attempted suicide he did not achieve the lofty 
resignation shown by one of our medical colleagues who remarked of a similar irregularity in his own family: 
‘Well, it’s just a misfortune like any other.’ There was something about his daughter’s homosexuality that 
aroused the deepest bitterness in him, and he was determined to combat it with all the means in his power. 
The low estimation in which psycho-analysis is so generally held in Vienna did not prevent him from turning 
to it for help. If this way failed he still had in reserve his strongest counter-measure: a speedy marriage was 
to awaken the natural instincts of the girl and stifle her unnatural tendencies. 

The mother’s attitude towards the girl was not so easy to grasp. She was still a youngish woman, who 
was evidently unwilling to give up her own claims to attractiveness. All that was clear was that she did not 
take her daughter’s infatuation so tragically as did the father, nor was she so incensed at it. She had even 
for some time enjoyed her daughter's confidence concerning her passion. Her opposition to it seemed to 
have been aroused mainly by the harmful publicity with which the girl displayed her feelings. She had 
herself suffered for some years from neurotic troubles and enjoyed a great deal of consideration from her 
husband; she treated her children in quite different ways, being decidedly harsh towards her daughter and 
over-indulgent to her three sons, the youngest of whom had been born after a long interval and was then 
not yet three years old. It was not easy to ascertain anything more definite about her character, for, owing 
to motives that will only later become intelligible, the patient was always reserved in what she said about 
her mother, whereas in regard to her father there was no question of this. 

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To a physician who was to undertake psycho-analytic treatment of the girl there were many grounds for 
misgiving. The situation he had to deal with was not the one that analysis demands, in which alone it can 
demonstrate its effectiveness. As is well known, the ideal situation for analysis is when someone who is 
otherwise his own master is suffering from an inner conflict which he is unable to resolve alone, so that he 
brings his trouble to the analyst and begs for his help. The physician then works hand in hand with one 
portion of the pathologically divided personality, against the other party in the conflict. Any situation which 
differs from this is to a greater or lesser degree unfavourable for psycho-analysis and adds fresh difficulties 
to the internal ones already present. Situations like that of a prospective house-owner who orders an 
architect to build him a villa to his own tastes and requirements, or of a pious donor who commissions an 
artist to paint a sacred picture in the corner of which is to be a portrait of himself in adoration, are at bottom 
incompatible with the conditions necessary for psycho-analysis. Thus, it constantly happens that a husband 
instructs the physician as follows: ‘My wife suffers from nerves, and for that reason gets on badly with me; 
please cure her, so that we may lead a happy married life again.’ But often enough it turns out that such a 
request is impossible to fulfil - that is to say, the physician cannot bring about the result for which the 
husband sought the treatment. As soon as the wife is freed from her neurotic inhibitions she sets about 
getting a separation, for her neurosis was the sole condition under which the marriage could be maintained. 
Or else parents expect one to cure their nervous and unruly child. By a healthy child they mean one who 
never causes his parents trouble, and gives them nothing but pleasure. The physician may succeed in 
curing the child, but after that it goes its own way all the more decidedly, and the parents are now far more 
dissatisfied than before. In short, it is not a matter of indifference whether someone comes to analysis of his 
own accord or because he is brought to it - whether it is he himself who desires to be changed, or only his 
relatives, who love him (or who might be expected to love him). 

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Further unfavourable features in the present case were the facts that the girl was not in any way ill (she 
did not suffer from anything in herself, nor did she complain of her condition) and that the task to be carried 
out did not consist in resolving a neurotic conflict but in converting one variety of the genital organization of 
sexuality into the other. Such an achievement - the removal of genital inversion or homosexuality - is in my 
experience never an easy matter. On the contrary, I have found success possible only in specially 
favourable circumstances, and even then the success essentially consisted in making access to the 
opposite sex (which had hitherto been barred) possible to a person restricted to homosexuality, thus 
restoring his full bisexual functions. After that it lay with him to choose whether he wished to abandon the 
path that is banned by society, and in some cases he has done so. One must remember that normal 
sexuality too depends upon a restriction in the choice of object. In general, to undertake to convert a fully 
developed homosexual into a heterosexual does not offer much more prospect of success than the reverse, 
except that for good practical reasons the latter is never attempted. 

The number of successes achieved by psycho-analytic treatment of the various forms of homosexuality, 
which incidentally are manifold, is indeed not very striking. As a rule the homosexual is not able to give up 
the object which provides him with pleasure, and one cannot convince him that if he made the change he 
would rediscover in the other object the pleasure that he has renounced, and such components of the 
instinct of self-preservation prove themselves too weak in the struggle against the sexual impulsions. One 
then soon discovers his secret plan, namely, to obtain from the striking failure of his attempt a feeling of 
satisfaction that he has done everything possible against his abnormality, to which he can now resign 
himself with an easy conscience. The case is somewhat different when consideration for beloved parents 
and relatives has been the motive for his attempt to be cured. Here there really are libidinal impulsions 
present which may put forth energies opposed themselves to the homosexual choice of object; but their 
strength is rarely sufficient. It is only where the homosexual fixation has not yet become strong enough, or 
where there are considerable rudiments and vestiges of a heterosexual choice of object, i.e. in a still 
oscillating or in a definitely bisexual organization, that one may make a more favourable prognosis for 
psycho-analytic therapy. 

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For these reasons I refrained altogether from holding out to the parents any prospect of their wish being 
fulfilled. I merely said I was prepared to study the girl carefully for a few weeks or months, so as then to be 
able to pronounce how far a continuation of the analysis would be likely to influence her. In quite a number 
of cases, indeed, an analysis falls into two clearly distinguishable phases. In the first, the physician 
procures from the patient the necessary information, makes him familiar with the premises and postulates 
of psycho-analysis, and unfolds to him the reconstruction of the genesis of his disorder as deduced from 
the material brought up in the analysis. In the second phase the patient himself gets hold of the material put 
before him; he works on it, recollects what he can of the apparently repressed memories, and tries to 
repeat the rest as if he were in some way living it over again. In this way he can confirm, supplement, and 
correct the inferences made by the physician. It is only during this work that he experiences, through 
overcoming resistances, the inner change aimed at, and acquires for himself the convictions that make him 
independent of the physician’s authority. These two phases in the course of the analytic treatment are not 
always sharply divided from each other; this can only happen when the resistance obeys certain conditions. 
But when this is so, one may bring up as an analogy the two stages of a journey. The first comprises all the 
necessary preparations, to-day so complicated and hard to effect, before, ticket in hand, one can at last go 
on to the platform and secure a seat in the train. One then has the right, and the possibility, of travelling into 
a distant country; but after all these preliminary exertions one is not yet there - indeed, one is not a single 
mile nearer to one’s goal. For this to happen one has to make the journey itself from one station to the 
other, and this part of the performance may well be compared with the second phase of the analysis. 

The course of the present patient’s analysis followed this two-phased pattern, but it was not continued 
beyond the beginning of the second phase. A special constellation of the resistance made it possible, 
nevertheless, to gain full confirmation of my constructions, and to obtain an adequate insight on broad lines 
into the way in which her inversion had developed. But before relating the findings of the analysis I must 
deal with a few points which have either been touched upon already by myself or which will have roused 
special interest in the reader. 

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I had made the prognosis partly dependent on how far the girl had succeeded in satisfying her passion. 
The information I obtained during the analysis seemed favourable in this respect. With none of the objects 
of her adoration had the patient enjoyed anything beyond a few kisses and embraces; her genital chastity, if 
one may use such a phrase, had remained intact. As for the demi-mondaine who had roused her most 
recent and by far her strongest emotions, she had always been treated coldly by her and never been 
allowed any greater favour than to kiss her hand. She was probably making a virtue of necessity when she 
kept insisting on the purity of her love and her physical repulsion against the idea of any sexual intercourse. 
But perhaps she was not altogether wrong when she boasted of her wonderful beloved that, being of good 
birth as she was, and forced into her present position only by adverse family circumstances, she had 
preserved, in spite of her situation, much nobility of character. For the lady used to recommend the girl 
every time they met to withdraw her affection from herself and from women in general, and she had 
persistently rejected the girl’s advances up to the time of the attempted suicide. 

A second point, which I at once tried to investigate, concerned any possible motives in the girl herself 
which might serve as a support for psycho-analytic treatment. She did not try to deceive me by saying that 
she felt any urgent need to be freed from her homosexuality. On the contrary, she said she could not 
conceive of any other way of being in love, but she added that for her parents’ sake she would honestly 
help in the therapeutic attempt, for it pained her very much to be the cause of so much grief to them. To 
begin with, I could not but take this, too, as a propitious sign; for I could not guess the unconscious affective 
attitude that lay concealed behind it. What came to light later in this connection decisively influenced the 
course taken by the analysis and determined its premature conclusion. 

Readers unversed in psycho-analysis will long have been awaiting an answer to two other questions. Did 
this homosexual girl show physical characteristics plainly belonging to the opposite sex, and did the case 
prove to be one of congenital or acquired (later-developed) homosexuality? 

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I am aware of the importance attaching to the first of these questions. But one should not exaggerate it 
and allow it to overshadow the fact that sporadic secondary characteristics of the opposite sex are very 
often present in normal individuals, and that well-marked physical characteristics of the opposite sex may 
be found in persons whose choice of object has undergone no change in the direction of inversion; in other 
words, that in both sexes the degree of physical hermaphroditism is to a great extent independent of 
psychical hermaphroditism. In modification of these statements it must be added that this independence is 
more evident in men than women, where bodily and mental traits belonging to the opposite sex are apt to 
coincide. Still I am not in a position to give a satisfactory answer to the first of our questions about my 
patient. The psycho-analyst customarily forgoes a thorough physical examination of his patients in certain 
cases. Certainly there was no obvious deviation from the feminine physical type, nor any menstrual 
disturbance. The beautiful and well-made girl had, it is true, her father’s tall figure, and her facial features 
were sharp rather than soft and girlish, traits which might be regarded as indicating a physical masculinity. 
Some of her intellectual attributes also could be connected with masculinity: for instance, her acuteness of 
comprehension and her lucid objectivity, in so far as she was not dominated by her passion. But these 
distinctions are conventional rather than scientific. What is certainly of greater importance is that in her 
behaviour towards her love-object she had throughout assumed the masculine part: that is to say, she 
displayed the humility and the sublime overvaluation of the sexual object so characteristic of the male lover, 
the renunciation of all narcissistic satisfaction, and the preference for being the lover rather than the 
beloved. She had thus not only chosen a feminine love-object, but had also developed a masculine attitude 
towards that object. 

The second question, whether this was a case of congenital or acquired homosexuality, will be answered 
by the whole history of the patient’s abnormality and its development. The study of this will show how far 
this question is a fruitless and inapposite one. 

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After this highly discursive introduction I am only able to present a very concise summary of the sexual 
history of the case under consideration. In childhood the girl had passed through the normal attitude 
characteristic of the feminine Oedipus complex 1 in a way that was not at all remarkable, and had later also 
begun to substitute for her father a brother slightly older than herself. She did not remember any sexual 
traumas in early life, nor were any discovered by the analysis. Comparison of her brother’s genital organs 
and her own, which took place about the beginning of the latency period (at five years old or perhaps a little 
earlier), left a strong impression on her and had far-reaching after-effects. There were very few signs 
pointing to infantile masturbation, or else the analysis did not go far enough to throw light on this point. The 
birth of a second brother when she was between five and six years old exercised no special influence upon 
her development. During the pre-pubertal years at school she gradually became acquainted with the facts 
of sex, and she received this knowledge with mixed feelings of lasciviousness and frightened aversion, in a 
way which may be called normal and was not exaggerated in degree. This amount of information about her 
seems meagre enough, nor can I guarantee that it is complete. It may be that the history of her youth was 
much richer in experiences; I do not know. As I have already said, the analysis was broken off after a short 
time, and therefore yielded an anamnesis not much more reliable than the other anamneses of 
homosexuals, which there is good cause to question. Further, the girl had never been neurotic, and came 
to the analysis without even one hysterical symptom, so that opportunities for investigating the history of 
her childhood did not present themselves so readily as usual. 

At the age of thirteen to fourteen she displayed a tender and, according to general opinion, exaggeratedly 
strong affection for a small boy, not quite three years old, whom she used to see regularly in a children’s 
playground. She took to the child so warmly that in consequence a lasting friendship grew up between 
herself and his parents. One may infer from this episode that at that time she was possessed of a strong 
desire to be a mother herself and to have a child. However, after a short time she grew indifferent to the 
boy, and began to take an interest in mature, but still youthful, women. The manifestations of this interest 
soon brought upon her a severe chastisement at the hands of her father. 

1 1 do not see any advance or gain in the introduction of the term ‘Electra complex’, and do not advocate its use. 

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It was established beyond all doubt that this change occurred simultaneously with a certain event in the 
family, and one may therefore look to this for some explanation of the change. Before it happened, her 
libido was concentrated on a maternal attitude, while afterwards she became a homosexual attracted to 
mature women, and remained so ever since. The event which is so significant for our understanding of the 
case was a new pregnancy of her mother’s, and the birth of a third brother when she was about sixteen. 

The position of affairs which I shall now proceed to lay bare is not a product of my inventive powers; it is 
based on such trustworthy analytic evidence that I can claim objective validity for it. It was in particular a 
series of dreams, interrelated and easy to interpret, that decided me in favour of its reality. 

The analysis revealed beyond all shadow of doubt that the lady-love was a substitute for - her mother. It 
is true that the lady herself was not a mother, but then she was not the girl’s first love. The first objects of 
her affection after the birth of her youngest brother were really mothers, women between thirty and thirty- 
five whom she had met with their children during summer holidays or in the family circle of acquaintances in 
town. Motherhood as a sine qua non in her love-object was later on given up, because that precondition 
was difficult to combine in real life with another one, which grew more and more important. The specially 
intense bond with her latest love had still another basis which the girl discovered quite easily one day. Her 
lady’s slender figure, severe beauty, and downright manner reminded her of the brother who was a little 
older than herself. Her latest choice corresponded, therefore, not only to her feminine but also to her 
masculine ideal; it combined satisfaction of the homosexual tendency with that of the heterosexual one. It is 
well known that analysis of male homosexuals has in numerous cases revealed the same combination, 
which should warn us not to form too simple a conception of the nature and genesis of inversion, and to 
keep in mind the universal bisexuality of human beings . 1 

1 Cf. Sadger (1914). 

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But how are we to understand the fact that it was precisely the birth of a child who came late in the family 
(at a time when the girl herself was already mature and had strong wishes of her own) that moved her to 
bestow her passionate tenderness upon the woman who gave birth to this child, i. e. her own mother, and 
to express that feeling towards a substitute for her mother? From all that we know we should have 
expected just the opposite. In such circumstances mothers with daughters of nearly a marriageable age 
usually feel embarrassed in regard to them, while the daughters are apt to feel for their mothers a mixture 
of compassion, contempt and envy which does nothing to increase their tenderness for them. The girl we 
are considering had in any case altogether little cause to feel affection for her mother. The latter, still 
youthful herself, saw in her rapidly developing daughter an inconvenient competitor; she favoured the sons 
at her expense, limited her independence as much as possible, and kept an especially strict watch against 
any close relation between the girl and her father. A yearning from the beginning for a kinder mother would, 
therefore, have been quite intelligible, but why it should have flared up just then, and in the form of a 
consuming passion, is hard to understand. 

The explanation is as follows. It was just when the girl was experiencing the revival of her infantile 
Oedipus complex at puberty that she suffered her great disappointment. She became keenly conscious of 
the wish to have a child, and a male one; that what she desired was her father's child and an image of him, 
her consciousness was not allowed to know. And what happened next? It was not she who bore the child, 
but her unconsciously hated rival, her mother. Furiously resentful and embittered, she turned away from her 
father and from men altogether. After this first great reverse she forswore her womanhood and sought 
another goal for her libido. 

In doing so she behaved just as many men do who after a first distressing experience turn their backs 
forever upon the faithless female sex and become woman-haters. It is related of one of the most attractive 
and unfortunate princely figures of our time that he became a homosexual because the lady he was 
engaged to marry betrayed him with another man. I do not know whether this is true historically, but an 
element of psychological truth lies behind the rumour. In all of us, throughout life, the libido normally 
oscillates between male and female objects; the bachelor gives up his men friends when he marries, and 
returns to club-life when married life has lost its savour. Naturally, when the swing-over is fundamental and 
final, we suspect the presence of some special factor which definitely favours one side or the other, and 
which perhaps has only waited for the appropriate moment in order to turn the choice of object in its 

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After her disappointment, therefore, this girl had entirely repudiated her wish for a child, her love of men, 
and the feminine role in general. It is evident that at this point a number of very different things might have 
happened. What actually happened was the most extreme case. She changed into a man and took her 
mother in place of her father as the object of her love . 1 Her relation to her mother had certainly been 
ambivalent from the beginning, and it proved easy to revive her earlier love for her mother and with its help 
to bring about an overcompensation for her current hostility towards her. Since there was little to be done 
with the real mother, there arose from this transformation of feeling the search for a substitute mother to 
whom she could become passionately attached . 2 

1 It is by no means rare for a love-relation to be broken off through a process of identification on the part of the lover 
with the loved object, a process equivalent to a kind of regression to narcissism. After this has been accomplished, it is 
easy in making a fresh choice of object to direct the libido to a member of the sex opposite to that of the earlier choice. 

2 The displacements of the libido here described are doubtless familiar to every analyst from investigation of the 
anamneses of neurotics. With the latter, however, they occur in early childhood, at the time of the early efflorescence of 
erotic life; with our patient, who was in no way neurotic, they took place in the first years following puberty, though, 
incidentally, they were just as completely unconscious. Perhaps one day this temporal factor may turn out to be of great 

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There was, in addition, a practical motive for this change, derived from her real relations with her mother, 
which served as a gain from her illness. The mother herself still attached great value to the attentions and 
the admiration of men. If, then, the girl became homosexual and left men to her mother (in other words, 
‘retired in favour of her mother), she would remove something which had hitherto been partly responsible 
for her mother’s dislike . 1 

This libidinal position of the girl’s, thus arrived at, was greatly reinforced as soon as she perceived how 
much it displeased her father. After she had been punished for her over-affectionate attitude to a woman 
she realized how she could wound her father and take revenge on him. Henceforth she remained 
homosexual out of defiance against her father. Nor did she scruple to lie to him and to deceive him in every 
way. Towards her mother, indeed, she was only so far deceitful as was necessary to prevent her father 
from knowing things. I had the impression that her behaviour followed the principle of the talion: ‘Since you 
have betrayed me, you must put up with my betraying you.' Nor can I come to any other conclusion about 
the striking lack of caution displayed by this otherwise exceedingly shrewd girl. She wanted her father to 
know occasionally of her relations with the lady, otherwise she would be deprived of the satisfaction of her 
keenest desire - namely, revenge. So she saw to this by showing herself openly in the company of her 
adored one, by walking with her in the streets near her father’s place of business, and the like. This 
maladroitness, moreover, was by no means unintentional. It was remarkable, too, that both parents 
behaved as if they understood their daughter’s secret psychology. The mother was tolerant, as though she 
appreciated her daughter's ‘retirement’ as a favour to her; the father was furious, as though he realized the 
deliberate revenge directed against himself. 

The girl’s inversion, however, received its final reinforcement when she found in her ‘lady’ an object which 
promised to satisfy not only her homosexual trends, but also that part of her heterosexual libido which was 
still attached to her brother. 

1 As ‘retiring in favour of someone else’ has not previously been mentioned among the causes of homosexuality, or in 
the mechanism of libidinal fixation in general, I will adduce here another analytic observation of the same kind which 
has a special feature of interest. I once knew two twin brothers, both of whom were endowed with strong libidinal 
impulses. One of them was very successful with women, and had innumerable affairs with women and girls. The other 
went the same way at first, but it became unpleasant for him to be trespassing on his brother’s preserves, and, owing to 
the likeness between them, to be mistaken for him on intimate occasions; so he got out of the difficulty by becoming 
homosexual. He left the women to his brother, and thus retired in his favour. Another time I treated a youngish man, an 
artist, unmistakably bisexual in disposition, in whom the homosexual trend had come to the fore simultaneously with a 
disturbance in his work. He fled from both women and work together. The analysis, which was able to bring him back to 
both, showed that fear of his father was the most powerful psychical motive for both the disturbances, which were really 
renunciations. In his imagination all women belonged to his father, and he sought refuge in men out of submission, so 
as to retire from the conflict with his father. Such a motivation of the homosexual object-choice must be by no means 
uncommon; in the primaeval ages of the human race all women presumably belonged to the father and head of the 
primal horde. 

Among brothers and sisters who are not twins this ‘retiring’ plays a great part in other spheres as well as in that of 
erotic choice. For example, an elder brother studies music and is admired for it; the younger, far more gifted musically, 
soon gives up his own musical studies, in spite of his fondness for it, and cannot be persuaded to touch an instrument 
again. This is only one example of a very frequent occurrence, and investigation of the motives leading to this 
‘retirement’ rather than to open rivalry discloses very complicated conditions in the mind. 

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Linear presentation is not a very adequate means of describing complicated mental processes going on 
in different layers of the mind. I am therefore obliged to pause in the discussion of the case and treat more 
fully and deeply some of the points brought forward above. 

I mentioned the fact that in her behaviour to her adored lady the girl had adopted the characteristic 
masculine type of love. Her humility and her tender lack of pretensions, ‘che poco spera e nulla chlede ’, her 
bliss when she was allowed to accompany the lady a little way and to kiss her hand on parting, her joy 
when she heard her praised as beautiful (while any recognition of her own beauty by another person meant 
nothing at all to her), her pilgrimages to places once visited by the loved one, the silence of all more 
sensual wishes - all these little traits in her resembled the first passionate adoration of a youth for a 
celebrated actress whom he regards as far above him, to whom he scarcely dares lift his bashful eyes. The 
correspondence with ‘a special type of choice of object made by men’ that I have described elsewhere 
(1910b), whose special features I traced to attachment to the mother, held good even to the smallest 
details. It may seem remarkable that she was not in the least repelled by the bad reputation of her beloved, 
although her own observations sufficiently confirmed the truth of such rumours. She was after all a well- 
brought-up and modest girl, who had avoided sexual adventures for herself, and who regarded coarsely 
sensual satisfactions as unaesthetic. But already her first passions had been for women who were not 
celebrated for specially strict propriety. The first protest her father made against her love-choice had been 
evoked by the pertinacity with which she sought the company of a film actress at a summer resort. 
Moreover, in all these affairs it had never been a question of women who had any reputation for 
homosexuality, and who might, therefore, have offered her some prospect of homosexual satisfaction; on 
the contrary, she illogically courted women who were coquettes in the ordinary sense of the word, and she 
rejected without hesitation the willing advances made by a homosexual friend of her own age. For her, the 
bad reputation of her ‘lady’, however, was positively a ‘necessary condition for love’. All that is enigmatic in 
this attitude vanishes when we remember that in the case too of the masculine type of object-choice 
derived from the mother it is a necessary condition that the loved object should be in some way or other ‘of 
bad repute' sexually - someone who really may be called a cocotte. When the girl learnt later how far her 
adored lady deserved this description and that she lived simply by giving her bodily favours, her reaction 
took the form of great compassion and of phantasies and plans for ‘rescuing’ her beloved from these 
ignoble circumstances. We were struck by the same urge to ‘rescue’ in the men of the type referred to 
above, and in my description of it I have tried to give the analytic derivation of this urge. 

The Psychogenesis Of A Case Of Homosexuality In A Woman 


We are led into quite another realm of explanation by the analysis of the attempt at suicide, which I must 
regard as seriously intended, and which, incidentally, considerably improved her position both with her 
parents and with the lady she loved. She went for a walk with her one day in a part of the town and at an 
hour at which she was not unlikely to meet her father on his way from his office. So it turned out. Her father 
passed them in the street and cast a furious look at her and her companion, about whom he had by that 
time come to know. A few moments later she flung herself into the railway cutting. The explanation she 
gave of the immediate reasons determining her decision sounded quite plausible. She had confessed to the 
lady that the man who had given them such an irate glance was her father, and that he had absolutely 
forbidden their friendship. The lady became incensed at this and ordered the girl to leave her then and 
there, and never again to wait for her or to address her - the affair must now come to an end. In her despair 
at having thus lost her loved one for ever, she wanted to put an end to herself. The analysis, however, was 
able to disclose another and deeper interpretation behind the one she gave, which was confirmed by the 
evidence of her own dreams. The attempted suicide was, as might have been expected, determined by two 
other motives besides the one she gave: it was the fulfilment of a punishment (self-punishment), and the 
fulfilment of a wish. As the latter it meant the attainment of the very wish which, when frustrated, had driven 
her into homosexuality - namely, the wish to have a child by her father, for now she ‘fell’ through her 
father’s fault . 1 The fact that at that moment the lady had spoken in just the same terms as her father, and 
had uttered the same prohibition, forms the connecting link between this deep interpretation and the 
superficial one of which the girl herself was conscious. From the point of view of self-punishment the girl’s 
action shows us that she had developed in her unconscious strong death-wishes against one or other of 
her parents - perhaps against her father, out of revenge for impeding her love, but more probably against 
her mother too, when she was pregnant with the little brother. For analysis has explained the enigma of 
suicide in the following way: probably no one finds the mental energy required to kill himself unless, in the 
first place, in doing so he is at the same time killing an object with whom he has identified himself, and, in 
the second place, is turning against himself a death-wish which had been directed against someone else. 
Nor need the regular discovery of these unconscious death-wishes in those who have attempted suicide 
surprise us (any more than it ought to make us think that it confirms our deductions), since the unconscious 
of all human beings is full enough of such death-wishes, even against those they love . 2 Since the girl 
identified herself with her mother, who should have died at the birth of the child denied to herself, this 
punishment-fulfilment itself was once again a wish-fulfilment. Finally, the discovery that several quite 
different motives, all of great strength, must have co-operated to make such a deed possible is only in 
accordance with what we should expect. 

1 That the various methods of suicide can represent sexual wish-fulfilments has long been known to all analysts. (To 
poison oneself = to become pregnant; to drown - to bear a child; to throw oneself from a height = to be delivered of a 

2 Cf. Thoughts for the Times on War and Death’ (1915b). 

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In the girl’s account of her conscious motives the father did not figure at all; there was not even any 
mention of fear of his anger. In the motives laid bare by the analysis, on the other hand, he played the 
principal part. Her relation to her father had the same decisive importance for the course and outcome of 
the analytic treatment, or rather, analytic exploration. Behind her pretended consideration for her parents, 
for whose sake she had been willing to make the attempt to be transformed, lay concealed her attitude of 
defiance and revenge against her father which held her fast to her homosexuality. Secure under this cover, 
the resistance set a considerable region free to analytic investigation. The analysis went forward almost 
without any signs of resistance, the patient participating actively with her intellect, though absolutely tranquil 
emotionally. Once when I expounded to her a specially important part of the theory, one touching her 
nearly, she replied in an inimitable tone, ‘How very interesting’, as though she were a grande dame being 
taken over a museum and glancing through her lorgnon at objects to which she was completely indifferent. 
The impression one had of her analysis was not unlike that of a hypnotic treatment, where the resistance 
has in the same way withdrawn to a certain boundary line, beyond which it proves to be unconquerable. 

The resistance very often pursues similar tactics - Russian tactics, as they might be called - in cases of 
obsessional neurosis. For a time, consequently, these cases yield the clearest results and permit a deep 
insight into the causation of the symptoms. But presently one begins to wonder how it is that such marked 
progress in analytic understanding can be unaccompanied by even the slightest change in the patient’s 
compulsions and inhibitions, until at last one perceives that everything that has been accomplished is 
subject to a mental reservation of doubt, and that behind this protective barrier the neurosis can feel 
secure. ‘It would be all very fine’, thinks the patient, often quite consciously, ‘if I were obliged to believe 
what the man says, but there is no question of that, and so long as this is so I need change nothing.’ Then, 
when one comes to close quarters with the motives for this doubt, the fight with the resistances breaks out 
in earnest. 

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In the case of our patient, it was not doubt but the affective factor of revenge against her father that made 
her cool reserve possible, that divided the analysis into two distinct phases, and rendered the results of the 
first phase so complete and perspicuous. It seemed, further, as though nothing resembling a transference 
to the physician had been effected. That, however, is of course absurd, or, at least, is a loose way of 
expressing things. For some kind of relation to the analyst must come into being, and this relation is almost 
always transferred from an infantile one. In reality she transferred to me the sweeping repudiation of men 
which had dominated her ever since the disappointment she had suffered from her father. Bitterness 
against men is as a rule easy to gratify upon the physician; it need not evoke any violent emotional 
manifestations, it simply expresses itself by rendering futile all his endeavours and - by clinging to the 
illness. I know from experience how difficult it is to make a patient understand just precisely this mute kind 
of symptomatic behaviour and to make him aware of this latent, and often exceedingly strong, hostility 
without endangering the treatment. As soon, therefore, as I recognized the girl’s attitude to her father, I 
broke off the treatment and advised her parents that if they set store by the therapeutic procedure it should 
be continued by a woman doctor. The girl had in the meanwhile promised her father that at any rate she 
would give up seeing the ‘lady’, and I do not know whether my advice, the reasons for which are obvious, 
will be followed. 

There was a single piece of material in the course of this analysis which I could regard as a positive 
transference, as a greatly weakened revival of the girl’s original passionate love for her father. Even this 
manifestation was not quite free from other motives, but I mention it because it brings up, in another 
direction, an interesting problem of analytic technique. At a certain period, not long after the treatment had 
begun, the girl brought a series of dreams which, distorted according to rule and couched in the usual 
dream-language, could nevertheless be easily translated with certainty. Their content, when interpreted, 
was, however, remarkable. They anticipated the cure of the inversion through the treatment, expressed her 
joy over the prospects in life that would then be opened before her, confessed her longing for a man’s love 
and for children, and so might have been welcomed as a gratifying preparation for the desired change. The 
contradiction between them and the girl’s utterances in waking life at the time was very great. She did not 
conceal from me that she meant to marry, but only in order to escape from her father’s tyranny and to follow 
her true inclinations undisturbed. As for the husband, she remarked rather contemptuously, she would 
easily deal with him, and besides, one could have sexual relations with a man and a woman at one and the 
same time, as the example of the adored lady showed. Warned through some slight impression or other, I 
told her one day that I did not believe these dreams, that I regarded them as false or hypocritical, and that 
she intended to deceive me just as she habitually deceived her father. I was right; after I had made this 
clear, this kind of dream ceased. But I still believe that, beside the intention to mislead me, the dreams 
partly expressed the wish to win my favour; they were also an attempt to gain my interest and my good 
opinion - perhaps in order to disappoint me all the more thoroughly later on. 

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I can imagine that to point out the existence of lying dreams of this kind, ‘obliging’ dreams, will arouse a 
positive storm of helpless indignation in some readers who call themselves analysts. ‘What!’ they will 
exclaim, ‘the unconscious, the real centre of our mental life, the part of us that is so much nearer the divine 
than our poor consciousness - it too can lie! Then how can we still build on the interpretations of analysis 
and the accuracy of our findings?’ To which one must reply that the recognition of these lying dreams does 
not constitute any shattering novelty. I know, indeed, that the craving of mankind for mysticism is 
ineradicable, and that it makes ceaseless efforts to win back for mysticism the territory it has been deprived 
of by The Interpretation of Dreams, but surely in the case under consideration everything is simple enough. 
A dream is not the ‘unconscious’; it is the form into which a thought left over from preconscious, or even 
from conscious, waking life, can, thanks to the favouring state of sleep, be recast. In the state of sleep this 
thought has been reinforced by unconscious wishful impulses and has thus experienced distortion through 
the dream-work, which is determined by the mechanisms prevailing in the unconscious. With our dreamer, 
the intention to mislead me, just as she did her father, certainly emanated from the preconscious, and may 
indeed have been conscious; it could come to expression by entering into connection with the unconscious 
wishful impulse to please her father (or father-substitute), and in this way it created a lying dream. The two 
intentions, to betray and to please her father, originated in the same complex; the former resulted from the 
repression of the latter, and the later one was brought back by the dream-work to the earlier one. There can 
therefore be no question of any devaluation of the unconscious, nor of a shattering of our confidence in the 
results of analysis. 

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I cannot neglect this opportunity of expressing for once my astonishment that human beings can go 
through such great and important moments of their erotic life without noticing them much, sometimes even, 
indeed, without having the faintest suspicion of their existence, or else, having become aware of those 
moments, deceive themselves so thoroughly in their judgement of them. This happens not only under 
neurotic conditions, where we are familiar with the phenomenon, but seems also to be common enough in 
ordinary life. In the present case, for example, a girl develops a sentimental adoration for women, which her 
parents at first find merely vexatious and hardly take seriously; she herself knows quite well that she is very 
much occupied with these relationships, but still she experiences few of the sensations of intense love until 
a particular frustration is followed by a quite excessive reaction, which shows everyone concerned that they 
have to do with a consuming passion of elemental strength. Nor had the girl ever perceived anything of the 
state of affairs which was a necessary preliminary to the outbreak of this mental storm. In other cases, too, 
we come across girls or women in a state of severe depression, who on being asked for a possible cause 
of their condition tell us that they have, it is true, had a slight feeling for a certain person, but that it was 
nothing deep and that they soon got over it when they had to give it up. And yet it was this renunciation, 
apparently so easily borne, that became the cause of serious mental disturbance. Again, we come across 
men who have passed through casual love-affairs and realize only from the subsequent effects that they 
had been passionately in love with the person whom they had apparently regarded lightly. One is also 
amazed at the unexpected results that may follow an artificial abortion, the killing of an unborn child, which 
had been decided upon without remorse and without hesitation. It must be admitted that poets are right in 
liking to portray people who are in love without knowing it, or uncertain whether they do love, or who think 
that they hate when in reality they love. It would seem that the information received by our consciousness 
about our erotic life is especially liable to be incomplete, full of gaps, or falsified. Needless to say, in this 
discussion I have not omitted to allow for the part played by subsequent forgetting. 

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I now come back, after this digression, to the consideration of my patient’s case. We have made a survey 
of the forces which led the girl’s libido from the normal Oedipus attitude into that of homosexuality, and of 
the psychical paths traversed by it in the process. Most important in this respect was the impression made 
by the birth of her little brother, and we might from this be inclined to classify the case as one of late- 
acquired inversion. 

But at this point we become aware of a state of things which also confronts us in many other instances in 
which light has been thrown by psycho-analysis on a mental process. So long as we trace the development 
from its final outcome backwards, the chain of events appears continuous, and we feel we have gained an 
insight which is completely satisfactory or even exhaustive. But if we proceed the reverse way, if we start 
from the premises inferred from the analysis and try to follow these up to the final result, then we no longer 
get the impression of an inevitable sequence of events which could not have been otherwise determined. 
We notice at once that there might have been another result, and that we might have been just as well able 
to understand and explain the latter. The synthesis is thus not so satisfactory as the analysis; in other 
words, from a knowledge of the premises we could not have foretold the nature of the result. 

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It is very easy to account for this disturbing state of affairs. Even supposing that we have a complete 
knowledge of the aetiological factors that decide a given result, nevertheless what we know about them is 
only their quality, and not their relative strength. Some of them are suppressed by others because they are 
too weak, and they therefore do not affect the final result. But we never know beforehand which of the 
determining factors will prove the weaker or the stronger. We only say at the end that those which 
succeeded must have been the stronger. Hence the chain of causation can always be recognized with 
certainty if we follow the line of analysis, whereas to predict it along the line of synthesis is impossible. 

We do not, therefore, mean to maintain that every girl who experiences a disappointment such as this of 
the longing for love that springs from the Oedipus attitude at puberty will necessarily on that account fall a 
victim to homosexuality. On the contrary, other kinds of reaction to this trauma are undoubtedly commoner. 
If so, however, there must have been present in this girl special factors that turned the scale, factors 
outside the trauma, probably of an internal nature. Nor is there any difficulty in pointing them out. 

It is well known that even in a normal person it takes a certain time before the decision in regard to the 
sex of the love object is finally made. Homosexual enthusiasms, exaggeratedly strong friendships tinged 
with sensuality, are common enough in both sexes during the first years after puberty. This was also so 
with our patient, but in her these tendencies undoubtedly showed themselves to be stronger, and lasted 
longer, than with others. In addition, these presages of later homosexuality had always occupied her 
conscious life, while the attitude arising from the Oedipus complex had remained unconscious and had 
appeared only in such signs as her tender behaviour to the little boy. As a school-girl she had been for a 
long time in love with a strict and unapproachable mistress, obviously a substitute mother. She had taken a 
specially lively interest in a number of young mothers long before her brother’s birth and therefore all the 
more certainly long before the first reprimand from her father. From very early years, therefore, her libido 
had flowed in two currents, the one on the surface being one that we may unhesitatingly designate as 
homosexual. This latter was probably a direct and unchanged continuation of an infantile fixation on her 
mother. Possibly the analysis described here actually revealed nothing more than the process by which, on 
an appropriate occasion, the deeper heterosexual current of libido, too, was deflected into the manifest 
homosexual one. 

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The analysis showed, further, that the girl had brought along with her from her childhood a strongly 
marked ‘masculinity complex’. A spirited girl, always ready for romping and fighting, she was not at all 
prepared to be second to her slightly older brother; after inspecting his genital organs she had developed a 
pronounced envy for the penis, and the thoughts derived from this envy still continued to fill her mind. She 
was in fact a feminist; she felt it to be unjust that girls should not enjoy the same freedom as boys, and 
rebelled against the lot of woman in general. At the time of the analysis the idea of pregnancy and child- 
birth was disagreeable to her, partly, I surmise, on account of the bodily disfigurement connected with them. 
Her girlish narcissism had fallen back on this defence , 1 and ceased to express itself as pride in her good 
looks. Various clues indicated that she must formerly have had strong exhibitionist and scopophilic 
tendencies. Anyone who is anxious that the claims of acquired as opposed to hereditary factors should not 
be under-estimated in aetiology will call attention to the fact that the girl’s behaviour, as described above, 
was exactly what would follow from the combined effect in a person with a strong mother-fixation of the two 
influences of her mother’s neglect and her comparison of her genital organs with her brother’s. It is possible 
here to attribute to the impress of the operation of external influence in early life something which one 
would have liked to regard as a constitutional peculiarity. On the other hand, a part even of this acquired 
disposition (if it i/i/as really acquired) has to be ascribed to inborn constitution. So we see in practice a 
continual mingling and blending of what in theory we should try to separate into a pair of opposites - 
namely, inherited and acquired characters. 

If the analysis had come to an earlier, still more premature end, it might have led to the view that this was 
a case of late acquired homosexuality, but as it is, a consideration of the material impels us to conclude that 
it is rather a case of congenital homosexuality which, as usual, became fixed and unmistakably manifest 
only in the period following puberty. Each of these classifications does justice only to one part of the state of 
affairs ascertainable by observation, but neglects the other. It would be best not to attach too much value to 
this way of stating the problem. 

1 Cf. Kriemhilde’s admission in the Nibelungenlied. 

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The literature of homosexuality usually fails to distinguish clearly enough between the questions of the 
choice of object on the one hand, and of the sexual characteristics and sexual attitude of the subject on the 
other, as though the answer to the former necessarily involved the answers to the latter. Experience, 
however, proves the contrary: a man with predominantly male characteristics and also masculine in his 
erotic life may still be inverted in respect to his object, loving only men instead of women. A man in whose 
character feminine attributes obviously predominate, who may, indeed, behave in love like a woman, might 
be expected, from this feminine attitude, to choose a man for his love-object; but he may nevertheless be 
heterosexual, and show no more inversion in respect to his object than an average normal man. The same 
is true of women; here also mental sexual character and object-choice do not necessarily coincide. The 
mystery of homosexuality is therefore by no means so simple as it is commonly depicted in popular 
expositions - ‘a feminine mind, bound therefore to love a man, but unhappily attached to a masculine body; 
a masculine mind, irresistibly attracted by women, but, alas! imprisoned in a feminine body’. It is instead a 
question of three sets of characteristics, namely - 

Physical sexual characters 
(physical hermaphroditism) 

Mental sexual characters 
(masculine or feminine attitude) 

Kind of object-choice 

which, up to a certain point, vary independently of one another, and are met with in different individuals in 
manifold permutations. Tendentious literature has obscured our view of this interrelationship by putting into 
the foreground, for practical reasons, the third feature (the kind of object-choice), which is the only one that 
strikes the layman, and in addition by exaggerating the closeness of the association between this and the 
first feature. Moreover, it blocks the way to a deeper insight into all that is uniformly designated as 
homosexuality, by rejecting two fundamental facts which have been revealed by psycho-analytic 
investigation. The first of these is that homosexual men have experienced a specially strong fixation on 
their mother; the second, that, in addition to their manifest heterosexuality, a very considerable measure of 
latent or unconscious homosexuality can be detected in all normal people. If these findings are taken into 
account, then, clearly, the supposition that nature in a freakish mood created a ‘third sex’ falls to the 

The Psychogenesis Of A Case Of Homosexuality In A Woman 


It is not for psycho-analysis to solve the problem of homosexuality. It must rest content with disclosing the 
psychical mechanisms that resulted in determining the object-choice, and with tracing back the paths from 
them to the instinctual dispositions. There its work ends, and it leaves the rest to biological research, which 
has recently brought to light, through Steinach’s 1 experiments, such very important results concerning the 
influence exerted by the first set of characteristics mentioned above upon the second and third. Psycho- 
analysis has a common basis with biology, in that it presupposes an original bisexuality in human beings 
(as in animals). But psycho-analysis cannot elucidate the intrinsic nature of what in conventional or in 
biological phraseology is termed ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’: it simply takes over the two concepts and 
makes them the foundation of its work. When we attempt to reduce them further, we find masculinity 
vanishing into activity and femininity into passivity, and that does not tell us enough. I have already tried to 
explain how far we may reasonably expect, or how far experience has already proved, that the work of 
elucidation which is part of the task of analysis furnishes us with the means of effecting a modification of 
inversion. When one compares the extent to which we can influence it with the remarkable transformations 
that Steinach has effected in some cases by his operations, it does not make a very imposing impression. 
But it would be premature, or a harmful exaggeration, if at this stage we were to indulge in hopes of a 
‘therapy’ of inversion that could be generally applied. The cases of male homosexuality in which Steinach 
has been successful fulfilled the condition, which is not always present, of a very patent physical 
‘hermaphroditism’. Any analogous treatment of female homosexuality is at present quite obscure. If it were 
to consist in removing what are probably hermaphroditic ovaries, and in grafting others, which are hoped to 
be of a single sex, there would be little prospect of its being applied in practice. A woman who has felt 
herself to be a man, and has loved in masculine fashion, will hardly let herself be forced into playing the 
part of a woman, when she must pay for this transformation, which is not in every way advantageous, by 
renouncing all hope of motherhood. 

1 Cf. Lipschutz (1919).